OVIEDO — After two games of the Class 5A-District 3 tiebreaker at Hagerty High on Monday night, the Oviedo High faithful were proudly chanting, “This is our town!”
But by the end of the night at Sam Momery Stadium, a resilient Hagerty squad would prove there is indeed room for two in Oviedo.
Oviedo High (7-2, 3-1 5A-3) claimed it’s second district title in a row with a 6-0 win over Winter Springs and a 13-0 beatdown of the host Huskies. But Hagerty (7-2, 3-1 5A-3) showed its mettle, dropping Winter Springs 15-8 in the final quarter of the tiebreaker to claim 5A-3’s runner-up spot.
The wins left the Winter Springs Bears (5-4, 3-1 5A-3), who entered Friday leading the district with a 3-0 record, out in the cold.
The Bears had a chance to win the district title outright, but were shutout by Oviedo 14-0 on Friday night as the host Lions forced the playoff with a pair of touchdown runs by senior Johnny Boston.
That left all three teams standing with 3-1 district records, each having beaten one and lost to one of the others in district play. Hagerty earned hosting duties for the three-team playoff with a 17-6 win over Pine Ridge on Friday night.
Huskies quarterback Jeff Driskel completed 8-of-16 passes for 116 yards, but he did his best work on the ground as he rushed for 16 yards and a pair of first quarter touchdowns in that game to give the Huskies a 14-0 lead. With his 16 yards, Driskel eclipsed 1000 yards on the ground this season with 1,005. Lucas Wainman tacked on a 32-yard field goal in the third to ice it and the Hagerty defense preserved their seventh win.
That sent all three teams to Hagerty for a wild night of quarter-by-quarter playoff action. The Friday night win also earned Hagerty, who tied Oviedo for the best record but owned the head-to-head advantage, a bye for the first quarter of action. Instead it pitted Oviedo against Winter Springs.
OVIEDO 6, WINTER SPRINGS 0
The Bears won the coin toss and elected to receive, getting the first crack at scoring in the 12-minute game.
After the first of many big kicks on the night from Oviedo’s Scott Harvey pinned the Bears deep with a touchback, the Winter Springs offense went to work.
On the first three plays, Winter Springs running back Ryan Petro gained a total of 31 yards, running hard and heavy through tackles behind his left tackle and fullback.
“They have a good offensive line, a big offensive line and they get off the ball real well,” Oviedo coach Wes Allen said. “Petro is a hard-runner.”
The Lions struggled to stop Petro and the only thing that would stop Winter Springs on the opening drive was themselves. Petro’s first three runs put the Bears into Oviedo territory and an encroachment on Oviedo put Winter Springs at the Lions 44.
“He ran like a man possessed tonight,” said Allen of Petro, who finished with 63 yards rushing in the quarter. “To be honest, I was proud of Petro, the way he ran. To see a high school kid run with that desire and that much passion was very impressive.”
After another Petro run moved the ball to the 40, quarterback Garrett Etheridge scrambled for seven and a third Bears first down at the Oviedo 33. Petro brought the ball all the way to the 20 on his next run, but things started to sour for the Bears as the play was called back for holding.
On 1st & 19 from the 42, Petro ran for seven. Runs by Etheridge and Petro on the next two plays put the Bears in 4th & 5 at the 28, well out of kicker John Torres’ range. So the Bears went for it. But instead of giving the ball to Petro, Winter Springs tried some trickery, but the play fake pitch to LeDale Hollie was botched and Hollie had to go into panic mode just to fall on the ball for a loss of seven, turning the ball over on downs.
Oviedo took over at their own 42 and Johnny Boston ran for five on first down, but the Lions couldn’t get anything going after that. A low snap forced Boston to cover up for a loss of three on the next play and he was tackled for a loss of nine on third down. A facemask penalty on that gave the Lions a second chance, but Boston was stopped on 3rd & 2 forcing a Harvey punt. The Lions finished the quarter with minus-12 total yards.
The 40-yard boot pinned the Bears at their own 14 where their offense went back to work.
On first down, a Petro run for no gain led to a chop block on the Lions moving the ball to the 32 and renewing first down. Three more Petro runs netting eight yards set up fourth and two at the 40, which the Bears picked up on a run by fullback Joe Bonura. Petro picked up another first down three plays later with a six-yard run, but time was running out on the Bears. After an Etheridge run for just a yard, they tried to pass twice, but failed.
With 5.8 seconds on the clock and facing fourth and nine, the Bears decided they would run the clock down and force overtime. The ball was snapped to Etheridge who ran around for several seconds until the horn sounded, at which point he stopped at the Bears 21-yard line and stood.
Oviedo’s coaches, noticing that there was no whistle, hollered for their players to make a play on Etheridge and senior Jake Redding did just that.
“I knew [the play wasn’t over]. I don’t think anybody else knew. I heard a couple of coaches yelling strip the ball and he didn’t hear it. So I said ‘ok, I’m going to just walk up calmly like nothing is going on, just take it and run,’” Redding said. “From the beginning I wanted to do that. [Oviedo linebacker Tyler] Foto walked up to me and I was saying ‘please don’t tackle him! Please don’t tackle him!’ So when he didn’t, I walked up slowly, didn’t look at the ball, grabbed it and just ran as fast I could, didn’t look back.”
Redding returned what was effectively a fumble, 21 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
“That’s a heads up play by Jake Redding to end that game and run it back. [Etheridge] never took a knee. He held the ball. Jake took it and ran,” Oviedo coach Wes Allen said. “Jake Redding is a good person, one of the best kids you could ever meet and it’s my belief that good things happen to good people.
“Jake Redding started out as a linebacker for us as a freshman, accepted his role as a defensive lineman and has done everything we’ve asked that kid to do. For him to get a play like that, his senior year in a district shootout, I couldn’t be any happier for Jake Redding right now.”
The win clinched a playoff spot for Oviedo and sent them into a district title quarter with Hagerty.
OVIEDO 13, HAGERTY 0
While the matchup between the Lions and the Bears featured just three possessions, the follow-up between Hagerty and Oviedo was a punter’s dream.
Each team got three possessions before anyone scored, or even got a first down for that matter.
Oviedo started with the ball and lost three yards before a booming 68-yard punt by Harvey pinned the Huskies at their own five. On the ensuing possession, Hagerty managed just three yards before punting themselves. Lucas Wainman’s 48-yard punt put Oviedo at their own 48.
On the second play of the next drive, Oviedo’s Johnny Boston ran for six, but was stripped and Hagerty fell on the fumble. But the Huskies came up a yard short of a first down on their second drive and a 31-yard Wainman punt pinned Oviedo at their own 15.
Oviedo’s drive was done in before it started as the Lions were caught for holding on their first play. Faced with 1st & 20, the Lions came up short as well, gaining just 19 yards on a pair of completions by Sean Long. Harvey punted for the second time and another boomer, this one for 53 yards, put Hagerty at their own 23.
“Harvey is kind of a secret weapon for us,” Allen said. “He does a nice job punting the football for us. I thought we had pretty good punt coverage tonight and on his kickoffs; he had two in the end zone and one that was short against Hagerty. He did a nice job of kicking the football tonight for us.”
Driskel ran for three yards on first down, but two straight incompletions led to the game’s fifth punt and Wainman’s 33-yarder put Oviedo in business at the 49.
It was there that, with less than two minutes to go, Oviedo picked up the first first down of the quarter for either side on an 11-yard run by Anthony Gonzalez. Two more runs equaling five yards were wiped out by an illegal motion penalty. The Lions faced 3rd and 10 at the 40 with less than a minute to go when Sean Long found Mac Metcalf in stride on a deep post down the right sideline for a 40-yard-touchdown to make it 7-0 with 46 seconds to play.
“That’s been working all year. It’s that same play mostly, either that or backside post. I know when I get behind [the defender], Sean is looking for me. It works out every time,” Metcalf said. “[The defender] sat down on the curl route and I knew right then. Once I got behind him, it was perfect.”
Long said the play involves a quick pump to freeze the defenders and then he knows Metcalf will make a play.
“In the back of our minds we know it’s bound to happen. We’ve been doing it all year and it’s been working for us,” Long said. “Mac is my go-to guy. If you put the ball anywhere around him, he’s going to come down with it.”
Another Harvey boot on the kickoff pinned Hagerty at their five and on the second play of the drive, Driskel was intercepted by Tyler Foto, who returned it 14 yards for the clinching score. Hagerty would mount one more drive as the clock ticked inside 30 seconds, but Driskel was intercepted for a second time, by Blake McClain to end it.
Driskel finished the first game 4-of-9 for 28 yards and two picks. Long was 4-of-6 for 54 yards. Amazingly, each team only picked up one first down over the entirety of the quarter, but with a few big plays, Oviedo prevailed to repeat as Class 5A-District 3 champions.
“We talked about all season that we’ve never won back to back district titles at Oviedo,” Allen said. “However we had to do it, whatever it was, we were going to try to get it done this year and we did. I’m very proud of our guys. They kept believing in each other, they believed in the program and this group of seniors, if anybody deserves it, they do.”
Many of the players believed that because of how hard they had to work to get it, overcoming all odds to repeat as district champions for the first time in school history, this title meant more than winning the title last season.
“It makes it that much better,” Long said. “To fight back and win this, it’s unbelievable.”
“It means more, especially because we beat Hagerty after they beat us earlier in the season,” Metcalf said. “It means the world. They made shirts one year saying “This is our town” but we feel like, it’s OUR town.”
Oviedo wraps the regular season at Lyman on Friday night and then hosts Kissimmee-Osceola in the first round of the playoffs a week from Friday. Both games begin at 7:30 p.m.
HAGERTY 15, WINTER SPRINGS 8
The Oviedo repeat breathed new life into Winter Springs, who wouldn’t have their season end on Etheridge’s gaffe.
Hagerty started the third game with the ball at the 44 after a nice opening return by senior Andreus DuBose. With good field position, the Huskies used the same rushing attack that was successful against Winter Springs earlier in the season to take the early lead.
That attack was simple: Driskel left, Driskel right, Driskel up the middle. After three plays the future Gator quarterback had piled up 29 rushing yards and two first downs. After handoffs to Anthony Felix and Treyous Jarrells netted only five yards, Driskel was able to pull the Bears offsides with a hard count to get convert a third down into a first.
Driskel ran for three yards on the next play to the 14 and hit Jarrells for an 11-yard gain to the three, setting up first and goal. From there, the senior dove headfirst up the middle for a three-yard touchdown, his 18th of the season to make it 7-0 with 8:10 remaining.
“Our offensive line, I can’t say enough about them,” Driskel said. “They pushed them all over the field. I just looked for the crease and I hit it when I saw it.”
On their ensuing drive, Winter Springs did what they do best, ground out the clock on the ground.
The Bears started with the ball at their own 15 and ran five-consecutive times to begin the drive, gaining 27 yards by using seniors LeDale Hollie and Renaldo Bonnaire. Then, on third and eight after a holding penalty, Etheridge completed his first pass of the night, to sophomore Bryan Shell for 15 yards to midfield.
The Bears drive stalled on the next series and Etheridge passed incomplete on 4th and 11, but Hagerty was flagged for a helmet hit on Etheridge, giving the Bears an automatic first down at the 36. From there it took just three plays, an 11-yard run by Petro, a six-yard run by Eric Hampton and a 19-yard scoring jaunt by Joe Bonura for Winter Springs to score.
The play to get Bonura in the end zone in particular was a thing of beauty as Etheridge used a play fake to fool the defense and then put the inside handoff right on Bonura’s chest. That allowed the fullback to take off through a gaping hole in the offensive line and cruise into the end zone.
After the play, Hagerty was whistled for unnecessary roughness, moving the extra point try to the one-yard line. Winter Springs coach Matt Hesselbart opted to go for the two-point conversion and Petro flew over the top of the line, diving into the end zone to make it 8-7 Bears with 2:29 to play.
After falling to their biggest rivals and losing a shot at the district title less than a half hour prior, the Hagerty Huskies were suddenly facing the prospect of no playoffs. But the pressure couldn’t bother Jeff Driskel.
“Coach had been instilling in our mind all week that we have to have a short memory, especially in games like these,” Driskel said. “You only get one quarter, you can go to the Kansas City tie breaker and you just have to have a short memory. We let it go.”
After a short Bears kick was fair caught at the 32, Driskel hit Andreus DuBose for a six-yard gain on first down. On the next play, Winter Springs got pressure on Driskel, but the quarterback stepped up, pumped and found DuBose wide open down the sideline.
“At first it was a hitch play, I saw Jeff in trouble. So I saw open field and I just turned it up and he got it to me,” Dubose said. “It’s that chemistry. We all have a personal connection with Jeff. He knows.”
The result was a 62-yard touchdown to give the Huskies the lead back after just 17 seconds.
“It was a broken play,” Driskel said. “That’s kind of part of our offense. We have a bunch of big plays on broken plays. I kept the play alive and Andreus did a good job of getting behind the DB. I just floated it out to him and he did the rest. I was just kind of going with it on the fly.”
Winter Springs tried to put together a drive of their own, but on the third play, Etheridge was picked off by Tyler Thrift, clinching the district runner-up for Hagerty, the first playoff berth in school history.
“That’s what we’ve worked for,” Driskel said. “That’s what we put all our effort into in the offseason. Just to see it work out for these guys, it’s great. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Hagerty coach Nate Gierke beamed with pride for the accomplishments of not only Driskel but the entire team top to bottom.
“I give my kids a lot of credit, they’ve responded to adversity beyond my wildest dreams all year long,” Hagerty coach Nate Gierke said. “I’m so happy that they get the opportunity to go to the playoffs…these kids took a lot of criticism from a lot of different people telling them that they weren’t good enough. Throughout our season and tonight as well, I think it showed what kind of heart they have. They deserve this.”
But Driskel doesn’t want to see his teammates get content with where they are and he expects everyone to keep pushing.
“If your goal is not to win the state championship, I don’t know what your goal is. That should be every team’s goal and that for sure our goal. We’re just going to work and keep getting better.”
That quest starts this week against Lake Brantley in the final regular season game of the season for both teams. A week from Friday, Hagerty heads to Lakeland for the first postseason game in school history against the undefeated Lakeland Dreadnaughts. Both games kick off at 7:30 p.m.